In Elizabeth George's JUST ONE EVIL ACT, Detective Sargeant Barbara Havers takes center stage. Her other series characters also appear: Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, Taymullah Azhar and his nine-year-old daughter, Hadiyyah, along with the Scotland Yard brigade.
Barbara and Azhar are neighbors and friends. Hadiyyah adores Barbara, and the feelings are mutual. Sadly, their world falls apart when Angelina Upman, the child's mother, takes Hadiyyah from Azhar's care and disappears in Italy. The little girl is kidnapped at a weekly open market leaving no trace. She was lured away by a man who had a card allegedly from her father telling her to go with the man who gives her the card.
"The way George uses suspense and tension makes for novels that readers don't want to put down. JUST ONE EVIL ACT is one of those special books. Don't miss it."
A frantic call from Angelina soon alerts Azhar that Hadiyyah has been kidnapped in Italy. Angelina, now pregnant with another man's baby, has the only parental rights to the girl; Azhar's name is not on her birth certificate. Readers learn where the child is kept, and it's a creepy scenario. An investigation ensues, and Thomas Lynley becomes involved. He goes to Italy, and after Lynley explains to Azhar that Barbara has gone rogue in her zeal to find Hadiyyah, her job is on the line. He gets very upset and doesn't want Barbara to lose her career.
A number of private detectives are hired by different people, including the PIs themselves. Everyone seems to have an agenda of their own and fall over each other in the investigation. These people are not always on the up and up, which makes the search for Hadiyyah that much more difficult. Throughout this terrible situation, the reporter keeps blackmailing and pushing Barbara for more information; his only reason is for lurid headlines. At one point, he discovers that Azhar has another family. Azhar left his first wife years ago but never divorced her. The oldest son produced from this relationship hates his father and would give the reporter an earful if Corsico could get near him. This is something Barbara will do anything to avoid.
Angelina is having a very difficult pregnancy and must be hospitalized. She refuses to remain there and signs herself out, even though she can't eat and can barely walk. At this point, the focus changes in all of the investigations. Angelina dies, and a new view is now taken of the whole case. While Azhar was in Berlin for a conference, he is a worldwide celebrity among microbiologists and academics, and he is the first person suspected of poisoning Angelina. He has access; that is the general consensus among the various levels of police. He panics, of course, but thanks to Barbara and Lynley (along with some other sympathizers), the case does get solved.
Elizabeth George is one of the most popular procedural writers in the world. She has the gift of delivering interesting, well-honed characters along with a challenging story. Readers are taken through a sea of red herrings that makes armchair detectives very happy. If a reader wants to just float along with the flow, that works exceptionally well, too. The way George uses suspense and tension makes for novels that readers don't want to put down. JUST ONE EVIL ACT is one of those special books. Don't miss it.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on October 25, 2013